Staunton, Mar. 19 – Because Armenia lacks sufficient resources on its own to build highways or railways along a north-south route in Syunik that would connect it with Iran, far more attention has focused on Azerbaijani and Turkish efforts to open an east-west corridor including both railways and highways between Azerbaijan proper and Nakhichevan.
But now Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has announced a pre-qualification competition for firms interested in bidding for the construction of a highway in the northern portion of the Syunik oblast, apparently convinced that Yerevan has sufficient commitments from European banks to move ahead.
The proposed highway would not reach Iran by itself, although it could link into existing roads in the southern part of Syunik Oblast. But it could interfere with part of the several paths Azerbaijan and Turkey have been discussing. At the very least, it could force the two Turkic states to focus on a more southerly route.
While the project he has outlined would not be completed for at least six years, Pashinyan’s announcement will inevitably create more tensions now between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the east-west route (ritmeurasia.org/news--2022-03-19--transportnye-proekty-juzhnogo-kavkaza-armjanskij-perekrestok-protiv-zangezurskogo-koridora-59084).
That is because the Armenians, with the support of Russia and the Europeans, are against any talk of a corridor north-south or east-west; and this announcement means that Yerevan will dig in its heels further to Azerbaijani plans for precisely that. Consequently, the future reopening of transit routes anticipated by the tripartite accords may have the opposite effect intended.